Technology.Life.Insight.

Ooma Telo Review

This post originated at the blog:  Exit the Fast Lane
Voice Over IP (VOIP) has been a hot topic for those in the know for some time now, but is becoming increasingly more consumer targeted for its obvious benefits. Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) lines are going the way of the dinosaurs with few unique exceptions that just don’t work well with VOIP yet. I started  my VOIP journey with Cisco at work and Vonage at home around 7-8 years ago. Vonage was still an up and comer then with its ability to provide phone service right over your home internet connection. All you needed was a service contract and a Vonage supplied router to make calls. The problem with Vonage is that they have become more like a traditional phone company with their call plans, although still much cheaper than a traditional POTS line + long distance. Near the end of my experience with Vonage, the call quality was terrible which I chalked up to wireless interference. In my new house I didn’t want a home phone at all, but was eventually convinced by my wife so I sought out for something better.
During my search I came across a “next gen” VOIP phone company called Ooma. With staggeringly positive reviews all over the internet, Ooma has an interesting proposition: buy their router and make unlimited free calls nation-wide while only paying the mandatory federal/local fees which, for me, will equate to ~$3.50/month (911 included). That’s right, they don’t do phone plans with minute options like Vonage. The router is $200 and can be purchased from Amazon. By my math, based on what I was paying monthly with Vonage, this solution will pay for itself in 10 months. Ooma offers a Premier service for $10/month extra that adds feature like an instant second line, 3-way conferencing, and additional voicemail options. Important to note that this is an OPT-OUT service so they will automatically enroll you and start billing after a free 60-day trial period. My current feeling is that the basic services are more than ample so I plan to opt out. Ooma offers number porting services for $40/number if you wish to keep your current digits.

Installation

Setup is incredibly easy and if you’ve used a service like Vonage, this isn’t much different. The voice router needs to be added to your network via Ethernet so it can reach the internet and your phone will plug directly into it. I prefer to use wireless phones in which there is a single central base with many wireless satellites. I only plug the “master” base into the Ooma router. This method achieves maximum flexibility by overcoming any house phone wiring limitations and is essentially no different than how you would do it with any other type of phone service. I choose to use 2 firewalls in my home environment and put my voice router in the “DMZ” segment, which I also did with Vonage. Here is my setup in simplified form:
 image
Once you first plug in and power on your Ooma router it will automatically pull the latest firmware which will take a few minutes, during which time you will see the bottom row of button lights flashing. Once the updates are complete, log into the ooma activation site and complete the set up of your device. Once activated you will create a login on the My Ooma site where you will find a wizard that will step you through the rest of the set up process. Number porting can take some time but they’ll give you a temp number to use in the meantime. Or if you opted to create a new number you should now get a dial tone and will be able to make calls. Ooma uses a very special and fancy dial tone. ;)

Features

Aesthetically the device is quite elegant. The face is coated with a soft rubberized material that is quite pleasing to the touch. All edges are rounded and the bottom is finished with a high-gloss piano black plastic. The button lights can be made brighter or turned off altogether. Voicemail can be accessed directly on the device like an old-school answering machine, via the phone, or via the website.
The My Ooma website is where you’ll make all service configuration changes. The dashboard is still a work in progress but you can see your voicemails, setup progress, and stats from here. Clicking “call logs” on the left will reveal detailed information for all call activity. What’s really neat is that from this view you can white or blacklist any number in your history (premier feature)! I’ll show you blacklisting in just a second. The Voicemail and Contacts areas are fairly self-explanatory.
Clicking the “Preferences” button up top will reveal the meat of the configurable options. Under Voicemail you have the option to control how many rings before a call goes to voicemail as well as whether to send email or SMS notifications including audio attachments.
Now on to my favorite premier feature: Blacklisting. This is a great feature that allows you to completely control who calls your house and how those calls are dealt with. Send a blocked caller a disconnected number message or just let the line ring continuously. You can use the community list which is Ooma’s list of telemarketers or control your own. Many may find the $10/month premier price worth it for this feature alone. But you should know that this can be done for free in Google Voice. GV adds another layer to your overall voice solution but the value is becoming more and more compelling. 
Call forwarding does what it says in the traditional sense or you can enable multi-ring for one device like a cell phone. You can also manage multiple phone numbers, your ring pattern, as well as play with some [currently] experimental Google Voice and iPhone integration.
Privacy settings control your ability to block the outbound caller-ID display of your number plus anonymous call block.
Everything else under preferences in inconsequential. Under the Account tab at the top you manage billing, account, and services information. Take note that this is where you go to opt-out of the automatic Premier services upgrade.
image
Available add-ons include the premier service, international calling, warranty extensions, and a few others.

Conclusion

Overall I am extremely impressed with Ooma. I just finished a Webex training class in which I was dialed into a conference call from literally 9-5 for 4 days. The call quality was excellent and my calls didn’t drop once! Since I’m using the same Panasonic DECT phones I had in my other house, I am left to believe that my bad call quality experience with Vonage was due to their router. All of my other gear is the same. Ooma looks and feels like a very polished and mature product in form and function. The home network setup is an effortless process and the web portal is feature-rich with Ooma making visible improvements to enhance the user experience. As long as you commit to use Ooma for a few years, the $200 buy-in along with $3/mo fees will be well worth your while. My only complaint is having to opt-out of the premier service and it not being immediately clear which features are basic vs premium.

8 comments:

  1. Great review, thanks for the detailed overview. Based on this and other reviews I have read, I think it's time to say goodbye to Bell and hello to Ooma!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My current phone company makes phoneline repairs (telephone pole-to-house after storms, for example). If I cancel my current phone company's service to connect OOMA, and a storm damages the nearby telephone pole - thereby disabling my OOMA service - who makes the repair?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Because Ooma relies on your internet connection, it depends on how you receive your service. I use Verizon's FIOS, for example, which is underground fiber optic cable to my house with a Verizon provided battery backup in my garage. No telephone pole damage is going to affect my internet connection. If your internet connection comes into your house via the telephone pole then a storm could knock out your service. Regardless, the owner of the pole or lines would still be responsible for the repairs. Your first call would be to your internet service provider.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello, it looks like Oooma works with the panasonic phone? Do we have to buy an Ooma phone?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Kim,

    Yes it does, no need at all for the Ooma phone. You can use whatever phone brand you like. Panasonic just happens to be one of the highest rated so my personal choice. Anything with a base + wireless satellite type of model will work well here.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorites blog site list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my site as well and let me know what you think.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was watching a number of the blog articles on your website, I like your way of blogging. Hope you will be the better articles in the near future.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I use Cisco and I can say that VOIP phones are pretty handy to have - especially if you are always on-the-go. This is great to be able to use a regular landline even in your laptop.

    ReplyDelete

Recent Comments

Popular Posts

Powered by Blogger.

Twitter Feed

.

.